We left Albertville by train early last Saturday morning, and headed off to summer camp!
Our language school instructor recommended this several months ago as an excellent way to put all the French we have been learning into good practice and serve at the same time. So, we are here volunteering in a Christian summer camp here in France (outside of Marseille).
And oh my...it's been a very busy first week here! We were camp counselors for the 8-10 year olds (Animateur and Animatrice is what we are called in French, which is more like "host" or "organizer"). Basically, that means that we (along with our team members) were the ones with the kids all day- from getting them up and going in the morning to making sure they've all brushed their teeth at night.
The first few days were very exhausting for us (it was basically sink or swim). There were already kids here when we arrived, so we needed to quickly figure out our roles, and it was also the first time we've needed to rely on our French so heavily.
It's way different than being in class!
Some views of the main building where we are staying right now...
A few funny moments from last week:
* How to use the shower: On our tour the first day, the director took us around the campus and explained a few things (in French). One of the things he explained was how to get hot water in the shower we use...Nick had a cold shower that night...Suzanne had a hot shower. You have to turn the sink on to hot and the shower towards the side marked "cold" and leave it for a few minutes. We had a good laugh about it afterwards.
* The real French language test is being handed a bunch of kids and not losing them... we thought all our exams in Albertville were hard... but then we were given five 8-10 year old boys each for the whole day at a theme park and needed to keep them all together. We also did the same thing at the pool and at a waterpark. We didn't lose anyone :) The kids did really well, and we both had good days.
The theme park was called the OK Corral...lots and lots of American themes and decorations :)
* We have long days: After spending the whole day at the waterpark, one 9 year old girl was so tired she actually fell asleep with her head on her plate while she was waiting for dinner...we thought about joining her...
* We spent lots of conversations trying to sort out which kid said what and to whom when they were upset with each other...it's tricky enough to sort out in English! I (Suzanne) resorted to asking just yes/no questions because it's usually too hard to understand the story they are telling me about what happened. (I'd just ask, "Did someone call you a name?", "Did someone do something unkind?", "Would you like to talk to them about it?")
* Our progress: We are definitely making real progress in our speaking and comprehension, which is awesome. It really is getting a lot easier to speak. But, sometimes what we are saying comes out all wrong. Nick and one other Animateurs shared responsibility for one room of 11 boys. Getting them to be quiet and sleeping each night wasn't easy. One night, Nick finally said to them "If no one talks, I will send them outside!" when he meant to say "anyone", and all the boys had a good laugh, and repeated it back to him for the next few days. I (Suzanne) also got corrected by the kids several times on my pronunciation of the word "queue" while leading a game, because the way I was saying it sounded more like "make a bum" than "make a line". I was saying it really loudly, too. :)
We did a "big game day", and our team's game was a treasure hunt with a western theme...I made the treasure map...
* Friday and Saturday, we got the kids ready to go home. We needed to oversee the packing of the suitcases, and try to make sure they didn't leave half their stuff behind. When they had arrived, someone filled out a checklist of all their clothes and belongings so that we could tell what was missing and get them to look for it. Nick was going through this list with an 8 year old, and said "ok, it's marked that you have 5 pairs of shorts...can you count your shorts for me?" The boy counted 6 pairs, and when Nick asked how he ended up with more than when he arrived, the boy looked down at his body and said suddenly "Oh- these ones I'm wearing aren't mine! I don't know who's they are!"
* Other thoughts- French kids often stay at camp a really long time. Even for the young kids, it's normal to spend a full month of summer vacation at camp. Also, the food is WAY better than anything I remember eating at camp as a kid in America. They actually get everyone to sit a long tables, and a team comes out and serves the meal in courses. At every meal there is bread, salad, then the main dish, then sometimes cheese, then dessert. It's long days, but they feed us very well. :)
All in all, it's been a great adventure so far!
We've been really impressed with the leadership here. They have such a commitment and love for the kids. The others on our team were mostly teenagers who came here each summer as kids themselves, and now they are back to help out.
What touched us the most was how the staff taught scripture and talked about God with the kids. They are so passionate about sharing the truth of the gospel through this camp, and the woman who lead our group was amazing. She would give the lesson, and then let the kids ask her any questions they wanted- and many times the questions lasted for nearly an hour. The kids were really thirsty to learn!
The next few weeks:
This week we are working on the service team rather than directly with the kids. Mostly, we'll be mopping and cleaning. The days are not so packed, so it's a good break for us. Nick heads to Paris on Wednesday, and then to Australia on Thursday, for a work related visit. I stay another two weeks, and then we'll meet back up in Madagascar on the 18th of August.
A few prayer requests:
* We are still waiting on the final outcome for my nursing license in Australia. I applied over a year ago, and they got back to me a month ago saying that they intend to deny my license on the basis that the amount of clinical hours I did during my bachelor's degree is not equivalent to the Australian requirement. We were pretty caught off guard by this, since my degree is a very recent four year degree from Purdue. Apparently, the system has undergone lots of changes in the last year or two, and it is now very difficult for foreign nurses to work in Australia.
I had the chance to submit an appeal, and I added as much additional information from my university and prior positions as I could. We're asking God to move a mountain for us, and open the right doors so that I can still get my license. We know He can, and we will trust Him no matter the outcome. We would appreciate others joining us in prayer for this!
* We have lots of travel and flights in the weeks ahead, and then we need to hit the ground running with the Ponseti program in Madagascar. Please pray for our travels and the start of this program!
Thanks for keeping up with our blog! We appreciate you!